A STEWARD OF TRUTH

Bible Reading: 2 Timothy 2:1-2

Although we have looked at three pictures of the Christian pilgrim [2 Timothy 2:3-7], there are several other pictures of what a Christian is like in this same chapter of Paul’s letter to Timothy. They include pictures of a steward, a workman, a vessel and a servant. We will look more closely at these over the next four days.

A Christian is a steward of what God has given to him or her. In this case, Timothy is responsible for the truth that he has received and witnessed, and is to commit it to faithful men who will also teach others. He is to raise up new leaders.

It is important to understand the background to this exhortation by Paul. Timothy was the senior pastor at Ephesus. He had trained others to be leaders, but they had walked out of the church and deserted Timothy. Rick Renner writes, “It is a historical fact that because of Nero’s persecutions against the Church, masses of believers left the Ephesian church and returned to their old pagan temples. The fires of persecution had revealed the genuine level of these people’s commitment to Jesus. When they realised they might die for their faith, they re-evaluated their commitment and deserted the Lord, the Church, and their pastor in order to save their lives.” Timothy had been “burned” and hurt by their disloyalty, and would have felt like giving up.

Against this background, and with a shortage of leaders, Paul was telling Timothy to commit what he had witnessed and learned from him to faithful men, and to train new leaders, who will teach others.

What will this mean to Timothy? The word “commit” in Greek is a compound word ‘paratithimi’ composed of the words ‘para’ [to come alongside, to be near or close by] and ‘tithimi’ [to place, to lay something down]. The two words together mean “to come close in order to make some type of deposit.” Timothy needs to quit focussing on how others have hurt him and have let him down, and get alongside and close to people who are proven to be faithful and competent, and deposit into them everything he is and everything he knows. Some years ago I heard someone say that every Christian should have a Paul who is a mentor, and a Timothy who they are mentoring.

Questions:

Have you been hurt by people in the church that you tried to help, and instead of feeling successful and fulfilled, you felt let down and disappointed by them? How did you deal with this sense of disappointment?

Why do you think Paul told Timothy to commit what he had learned and witnessed to faithful men who are competent to teach others?

It is not just pastors or leaders who should be getting close to other Christians and imparting strength and understanding to them. Who are you mentoring?

THE CHRISTIAN PILGRIM

Bible Reading: 2 Timothy 2:1-13; Hebrews 12:1-2

John Bunyan wrote in this hymn about being constant and not discouraged.

“Who would true valour see,

Let him come hither;

One here will constant be,

Come wind, come weather;

There’s no discouragement

Shall make him once relent

His first avowed intent

To be a pilgrim”

Writing to Timothy, Paul encourages him to remain constant and not give up. He paints three pictures for Timothy of what it means to be a Christian pilgrim. It is to be like a soldier, an athlete and a hard-working farmer.

The soldier has to endure hardship, and the focus of his life should be to please his commanding officer. For this reason he refuses to get entangled in the affairs of this life that would lead him away from that goal. Jesus is our commanding officer and we should obey Him and not be distracted.

The athlete who does not obey the rules will be disqualified and not be crowned as a champion [2:5]. We can link this verse to 1 Corinthians 9:24, “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.” How does the Christian win the prize? By being focussed on the goal, by undergoing the hardship of vigorous and disciplined training, and by living by the rules of God’s Word. There are no short cuts!

The hard-working farmer does unexciting work and presses on although he does not see immediate results. We live in a world that “wants it and wants it now,” but the Christian life is not like that. Paul commends the Roman Christians for their “hard work” [Romans 16:6,12 NLT]. Preparing the ground, sowing the seed, and then waiting for harvest requires diligence, hard work and patience, but the end result is that the farmer enjoys the rewards of his labour.

Do you get the constant theme running through these pictures? It is a battle. There is hardship. The Christian life requires you to be disciplined and remain focussed on the goal despite the hardships. You will enjoy the harvest of righteousness in the presence of the Lord and all His saints. But you must now set aside all distractions and the sin that so easily entangles you. Seek first His kingdom and righteousness as a good soldier, a disciplined athlete, and a hard-working farmer, even though it is sometimes difficult.

Questions:

It is easy to drift into a comfortable Christian life. What are the signs of this and how can we avoid it? What distractions might turn you from God’s way?

Some people equate discipline with legalism. How can we avoid the danger of discipline becoming legalistic? What is discipline like for the Christian?

BE STRONG IN THE GRACE OF JESUS CHRIST

Bible Reading: 2 Timothy 2:1-13

“So you, my son, be strong [constantly strengthened] and empowered in the grace that is [to be found only] in Christ Jesus” [2 Timothy 2:1 Amp. Bible]

Timothy is struggling with fear and feelings of being ashamed of the gospel. Paul is desperate that Timothy should overcome these feelings and commends him to be strong in the grace found in Christ Jesus.

What exactly does Paul mean when he speaks about being strong in the grace found in the Lord Jesus? The Greek Word for “strong” is ‘endunamoo’ meaning “to be empowered,” “to be enabled,” or “to be strengthened inwardly.” This word is in the passive voice and the present tense! Literally, it means to allow God to strengthen you and to do so moment by moment. This kind of strengthening is supernatural and does not depend on your own effort.

Reliance on our own natural strength to achieve spiritual results is doomed to failure.

It is grace that will empower Timothy. Many people trust God for His grace to save them, but sadly then rely upon their own strength and efforts to serve God. We often understand the meaning of amazing grace for salvation but fail to recognise that this same grace is the key to being strengthened and to serve God effectively. Paul writes, “My grace is all you need, for my power is greatest when you are weak” [2 Corinthians 12:9 TEV]. In this verse grace and power are linked together. They are similarly linked together in the Book of Acts. “And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them” [Acts 4:33].

Again, Stephen was a man who humbly served at tables, but experienced God’s empowering grace. The Bible says, “Stephen, a man full of God’s grace… performed amazing miracles and signs among the people” [Acts 6:8 NLT].

Grace is God’s divine power. John writes that, “Of Jesus’ fullness we have all received, and grace for grace” [John 1:16]. The phrase, “grace for grace” literally means “the richest abundance of grace.” Grace gives us the fullness of Jesus Christ! What is it that we need when we are struggling? It is grace and God has given us an invitation to come to Him and receive it, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” [Hebrews 4:16]. Are you struggling with weakness and temptation? Come to God’s throne and receive the empowerment of grace. The writer of Hebrews actually said that we need grace in order to serve God acceptably [Hebrews 12:28]!

Questions:

Why is it so easy to trust God to save us by His grace, and yet so much more difficult to trust Him for grace for strength and grace to serve Him?

Will you accept Paul’s advice to Timothy? Come to God and ask Him to give you the strength that only grace can give you, and thus enable you to stand in the battle.

 

PAUL’S HOPE – GOD IS ABLE

Bible Reading: Romans 8:31-39

“For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” [2 Timothy 1:12]

Paul is coming to his last days on earth. In a short time he will be martyred for his faith, but he wants to make clear that his hope is in God alone. At this critical time he can say, “He is able.”

The great Methodist preacher, Dr. W. E. Sangster had a remarkable ministry at Westminster Central Hall. He was there through the war years, and continued to minister in Westminster to a congregation of 3,000 people each Sunday. It was said that you would have to queue for at least an hour to get a seat in the church on a Sunday. He wrote several remarkable books, including one entitled, “He is Able.” In that book he wrote about various Bible texts that speak of God’s ability. They included, “He is able to save to the uttermost” [Hebrews 7:25] and “He is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” [Ephesians 3:20]

As Dr. Sangster was dying he wrote a letter to Billy Graham, in which he said, “All my life I have proven Jesus to be able and now, as death approaches, I am finding that He is still able. Please tell the world that He is able in death.”

Paul’s words, “He is able to keep [guard] what I have committed [entrusted] to Him until that day,” is a clear statement from Paul of His total trust in Christ.It is refreshing to read these words in the Mirror Bible,

“Everything that grace pointed to is now realized in Jesus Christ and brought into clear view through the gospel: Jesus is what grace reveals. He took death out of the equation and re-defines life; this is good news indeed. Grace is my commission; it is my job and joy to proclaim this message and guide the nations into a full understanding of the love initiative of God. What I suffer because of this does not frighten me at all; faith has made Him so apparent [‘eido’ Greek – to see, to know]. I am absolutely persuaded that I am safe in Him, We are no longer looking for a future event, or another day, the day has come! Death is not Doomsday; nothing can interrupt what He has done” [2 Timothy 1:10-12].

Paul summed up this sense of safety, elsewhere when he wrote, “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” [Romans 8:38-39].

Questions:

What have you committed to Jesus Christ and trust Him to keep whether in life or in death?

Do you have that sense of certainty and safety that Paul had in Christ? If you do not have this why not ask Jesus now and commit everything to Him?

REFRESHING BELIEVERS GOING THROUGH TRIALS

Bible Reading: Ephesians 1:18; 3:14-21; 6:19-20

“Remember the prisoners as if chained with them—those who are mistreated—since you yourselves are in the body also” [Hebrews 13:3 NKJV]

I was reading recently some thoughts that someone has written about Christians who are facing severe persecution. At the same time I was reading of how the imprisoned Paul was refreshed by Onesiphorus.

It has been estimated that up to 300,000 Christians are annually dying for their faith in this present millennium. We have all heard terrible stories coming from the Middle East, as well as countries like Iran and Pakistan. The present revival of Hinduism is proving to be very anti-Christian. Although claiming freedom of religious belief, thousands of Christian church buildings have been closed down or burned down in Indonesia. Whilst many hail the changes being made by the new Chinese premier, they seem to easily forget the new clamp down against the unofficial church in China. In the west there is an increasing antagonism against Christians who speak up for their faith.

The writer of Hebrews makes it clear that we should remember those in the body of Christ who are suffering. If we cannot visit them, then the very least we can do is to pray for them. How can we pray for them? May I suggest the following pattern?

Firstly, pray that persecuted believers would know and remember the hope that God gives. “I pray that the eyes of your heart be enlightened in order that you may know this hope to which He has called you” [Ephesians 1:18].

Secondly, pray that the Holy Spirit would strengthen our persecuted brothers and sisters. “I pray that out of His glorious riches he may strengthen you with power by His Spirit in your inner being” [Ephesians 3:16].

Thirdly, pray that they would know how much God loves them. “I pray that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power… to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ” [Ephesians 3:17-18]

Fourthly, pray that they would know how to share the gospel and would be fearless in doing so. “Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly as I should” [Ephesians 6:19-20].

Remember how Paul, in his suffering, prayed for Onesiphorus who refreshed him, that the Lord would grant that he would find mercy from the Lord on that great day of the Lord [2 Timothy 1:18]. You may not see much in the way of answers to your prayers for our suffering brothers here, but when you stand before His throne, all will be revealed, and you will see the result of your prayers.

A Question.

Will you pray in this way today and for the next seven days and let this become a life-style of praying for our brothers and sisters who are suffering for Christ?

NOT ASHAMED OF JESUS – PART 3

Bible Reading: 2 Timothy 1:13-18

“Onesiphorus and his family have been a real gift from the Lord and a great encouragement to me. They have often taken tender care of me. The fact that I was jailed did not intimidate them at all. When he was in Rome he immediately searched for me until he found me. His visit meant so much to me that day in Rome; he made God’s mercy tangible! No one knows better than you what a blessing he has been to us in Ephesus” [2 Timothy 1:13-15 Mirror Bible]

Paul is trying to encourage Timothy not to be ashamed of the gospel and of embracing the cost of being faithful to Jesus. In doing so he mentions a man who is only mentioned once in the Bible. There are a number of people who are only mentioned once in Scripture, and whose faithfulness to the Lord challenges us. Onesiphorus is one of them! They don’t make world headlines but their quiet obedience and faithfulness are vital to the body of Christ.

Paul praises Onesiphorus, but at the same time he reminds Timothy of Phygellus, Hermogenes and all in Asia who have turned away from him. Timothy is weighing everything up. Timothy had been Onesiphorus’ pastor in Ephesus and was well acquainted with him and his family. Timothy would have known how he had ministered to Paul in Ephesus [2 Timothy 1:18] and how he had sought for Paul in Rome, refreshed him, and was not ashamed of Paul’s chains [2 Timothy 1:16-17]. It would have been so much easier for Onesiphorus to remain in Ephesus, and not to make the long, and dangerous journey to Rome. Even in Rome it required persistence to find Paul. In his first imprisonment in Rome Paul was in his own house [Acts 28:30], but now he was in a prison and manacled to a Roman soldier. It actually took great effort for Onesiphorus to refresh Paul.

The Amplified Bible speaks in vivid terms of the way Onesiphorus refreshed Paul. “He often showed me kindness, and ministered to my needs [comforting and reviving and bracing me like fresh air].” He was a Christian who was to Paul like a breath of fresh air in a time of trial.

What a challenge for Timothy! Will he follow the example of those who had forsaken Paul, or would he follow the example of Onesiphorus? Would he be committed and loyal, or would he allow his fear to win and run away?

Questions:

Can you think of two other people apart from Onesiphorus who are only mentioned once in Scripture, and yet their faithful service for Jesus is recorded for our benefit? [Look at Acts 9:10-19 and 1 Corinthians 16:13-18].

What would your decision be if you were faced with the choice that Timothy had to make, to either follow the example of Onesiphorus or those who had forsaken Paul?

Would you be a breath of fresh air to a fellow believer who is going through a tough time?

NOT ASHAMED OF JESUS – PART 2

Bible Reading: Mark 8:34-38. 2 Timothy 1 8-12

“When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels” [Mark 8:34-38 NKJV].

Sometimes the real issue of being ashamed of Jesus is being afraid of losing what we might gain in this world. Jesus calls it “exchanging our soul for this world.”

Many years ago I heard from a friend the remarkable story of a Christian businessman in Warrington, England. His business was making automotive parts, but the business was not doing well. One day he received a call from a large and well-known motor manufacturer, who expressed an interest in purchasing one particular part that his company was making. Here was his breakthrough and possible success.

An appointment was made and two employees of that particular motor manufacturer came to visit him at his office. As they walked into his office one of the men tripped and fell. As he fell he blasphemed using the name of Jesus as a swear word. The businessman was incensed, and told them that no one talks about Jesus, his Saviour, in that way in his office. He then asked them to leave. A few days later the businessman received a letter from their company, saying that they would not be using the automotive part that he makes in their cars.

The man was both sad and glad! Sad that he had lost the contract but glad that he had stood firm in his faithfulness to Jesus. The future of the business looked grim, but a few weeks later another very large car manufacturer approached him, and this time there was success. The company was rescued from potential bankruptcy and went on to become highly successful.

Questions:

What does this story tell you about not being ashamed of Jesus?

If not being ashamed of Jesus means loss and seeming failure in the understanding of this world, would you still be prepared to stand up and speak out for Jesus?

What would your right response be if your employer says that you must not talk about Christian things in your workplace during working hours? In what way does this differ from being ashamed of Jesus?

NOT ASHAMED OF JESUS – PART 1

Bible Reading: 2 Timothy 1:8-12; Acts 4:23-31

There is a clear emphasis in the first chapter of Paul’s second letter to Timothy about not being ashamed of the Gospel. Paul says of himself that he is not ashamed to suffer for the Lord [2 Timothy 1:12]. He then commends Onesiphorus who was not ashamed of Paul’s chains [2 Timothy 1:16], and continues by challenging Timothy not to be ashamed of the testimony of the Lord that includes suffering [2 Timothy 1:8].

We see in this chapter that Timothy is not only afraid, but he is also ashamed [verses 7,8]. Paul knew Timothy’s natural timidity might make it easy for him to avoid circumstances that demanded witnessing or involved suffering.

It was not politically correct in Timothy’s day to talk about Jesus and salvation, and neither is it so in our day. People’s response might well be to mock and laugh at Timothy. This is because the gospel, in its basic element, is insulting to the pride of men. Especially in a world that loves to imagine itself to be adequate to solve its own problems. The declaration of the gospel is that man is helpless and lost.

As Timothy thought about Paul’s suffering for Christ, being a political prisoner of the State and an enemy of the Emperor, he must have been tempted to ask the question, “Is it worth it?”. Indeed it would have been easier for him if he just kept quiet. We can see here the link between fear and being ashamed of the Gospel. Fear may well have been the root cause of Timothy’s attitude.

Recognising Timothy’s weakness, Paul encourages Timothy to not be ashamed of the testimony of the Lord, but to hold fast to what had been committed to him [2 Timothy 1:13-14]; to be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus [2 Timothy 2:1]; to recognise that “all who live godly lives in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” [2 Timothy 3:12]; and to “Preach the word… in season and out of season” [2 Timothy 4:2]. A result of being faithful to Christ is that there will be afflictions [2 Timothy 4:5].

Jesus summed up the truth that if we faithfully follow Him it would involve a cost. It will mean to ‘take up the cross’. A passage that says this concludes with the words, “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels” [Mark 8:38].

Questions:

Read Acts 4:23-31. What happened when the disciples prayed following the persecution against Peter and John? [See especially verse 23].

Why do you think it is so easy to talk about work, the weather and the cinema, but so challenging to talk about Jesus?

Have you found it difficult to talk about Jesus with people at appropriate moments, and instead you’ve kept quiet? Why not specifically pray for one opportunity to share Jesus with a friend who is not yet a Christian in the coming week? Remember getting started is the hard part – breakthrough!

HAVING THE MIND OF CHRIST

Bible Reading: Ephesians 3:14-21

In today’s devotional I would like to do something different. A few days ago my wife and I were relaxing together when one of us mentioned an old hymn. It begins with the words, “May the mind of Christ my Saviour, live in me from day to day.” We found the hymn on-line and began to sing it together. Its words were so meaningful to both of us, and especially to me as I had been reading and writing about the mind during this week.

Today I would like to just share these beautiful and challenging words with you. If, like us, you would like to sing the words, then the tune can be found on-line at www.hymnary.org

May the mind of Christ, my Saviour,
Live in me from day to day,
By His love and pow’r controlling
All I do and say.

May the Word of God dwell richly
In my heart from hour to hour,
So that all may see I triumph
Only through His pow’r.

May the peace of God my Father
Rule my life in everything,
That I may be calm to comfort
Sick and sorrowing.

May the love of Jesus fill me
As the waters fill the sea;
Him exalting, self abasing,
This is victory.

May I run the race before me,
Strong and brave to face the foe,
Looking only unto Jesus
As I onward go.

May His beauty rest upon me,
As I seek the lost to win,
And may they forget the channel,
Seeing only Him.

God bless you today as you meditate upon these lovely words. May He fill you with His joy, beauty and peace. Michael

HAVING A DISCIPLINED MIND

Bible Reading: Isaiah 26:1-9

The words “self-discipline” [2 Timothy 1:7 NIVUK & NLT] are a translation of the Greek word ‘sophronismos.’ This is the only the place in the New Testament where this Greek word is used. It is linked to the word ‘sophronizo’ that means “to have a sound mind,” and “to discipline or correct.” There the Greek word ‘sophronismos’ is variously translated in different versions of the English Bible. These include, “discipline” [NASB], “sensible” [The Message], “a sound mind” [KJV, J.B. Phillips], “self-control” [ESV],”personal discipline [abilities that result in a calm, well-balanced mind and self-control]” [Amp. Bible].

Obviously God’s will is that our minds should be sharp, disciplined and in tune with Him. Jesus said that we are to love God with our mind [Matthew 22:37]!

I have noticed that people who live undisciplined lives almost always have undisciplined minds. The old-fashioned word for these people was scatter brained! The question then arises, how can we have a disciplined mind that is sound in its judgement and leads to a disciplined life-style?

Firstly, you need to un-clutter the mind. Multi-tasking is a modern word but it is a word loaded with stress! Perhaps it is time to reduce what you are doing and the stress it puts on the mind, and instead do one or two things well. In a recent period of my life I found it helpful to have just one appointment a day. Reducing the many thoughts that cloud our thinking and discarding those that are unnecessary is a daily process. Recently I had an excessive number of unanswered emails. I decided to bin the lot, thinking that if someone really needed to contact me then they would do so again. What a relief! Keep thinking simple by binning as many unnecessary and stray thoughts as possible!

Secondly, get rid of the double-mindedness that makes us unstable in our living [James 1:5]. This might well require humbly repenting before the Lord [James 4:8]. Notice that we have to cleanse ourselves and purify our hearts. Don’t excuse yourself by saying that it is God’s responsibility.

Thirdly, guard what goes into your mind. This includes things you see and listen to, and also things that are not really your business – take a close look at 1 Thessalonians 4:11! Be careful what you listen to. Can you imagine what Job’s end might have been if he had taken on board the foolish counsel of those three miserable comforters.

Fourthly, whilst guarding what goes into your mind, positively focus on Jesus. We have the mind of Christ. Let’s focus on Him often through the day. Maybe even intentionally take three different times each day to specifically pray in the same way that Daniel prayed! [Daniel 6:10]. As you quietly and in a disciplined way read God’s Word allow the Holy Spirit to minister to both your spirit and your mind. God promises that He will keep you in perfect peace when your mind is stayed upon Him [see Isaiah 26:3].

Questions:

Why do you think that Jesus said in Matthew 13:27 that we should love God with our mind? What do you think that this means?

What are the things that normally clutter our minds and make spiritual life more difficult?

If today’s word has challenged you in any way, what will you do to intentionally change your mind set?